Cherry Eye

Not just unattractive, chronic eye can result. Surgical correction is best.



I just bought a boxer/bulldog mix and he has what you call a cherry eye. What do I do about it?


Dr. Nichol:

This is a common eye disease but I wish it hadn’t been named after food. It’s an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence.


OK, cherry eye. It’s not an emergency but it is important. The eyeball itself is fine. The problem is in the pink membrane that sits just below the eyes of our dogs. This structure, called the third eyelid or nictitans, has a bit of lymph tissue on its back side. The whole assembly is quite valuable because of its protective function. Your dog’s problem is that the lymph gland has become swollen and has turned the third eyelid inside out. Hence you see this red swelling.


So, a few facts. It will not resolve on its own. It is not a huge problem if you ignore it but your dog may get a low grade infection because of improper tear flow. In years past it has been managed by simple removal of the lymph tissue. The problem with this simplistic treatment is that the gland helps produce some of the normal moisture for the eye. Removal of the gland has caused severe dry eye problems later in life. Instead your pup needs a surgery that permanently tucks the gland back into its normal position. Most good general practitioners are skilled at this. Eye drops? Sorry-they won’t help either. The other eye? It may or may not occur there too.


Two positive points: First, correction is a day surgery. Second, be thankful it wasn’t called pineapple eye.